About Me

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Wife (to Shaun), Mother (to Danni), Dog walker of Archie the JRX, improving cyclist, reformed gym bunny, broken runner Collector of exercise DVDs & equipment. Cake is my weakness together with cider (Westons only thanks)and brandy. Noisy spectator of running & cycling events. Owner of Tribby the campervan

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Juneathon 2014

I've just signed up for Juneathon - I wasn't going to but then thought about it and decided what the hell.

Last year I didn't do Juneathon because I was a bit out of sorts and couldn't cope with the pressure of doing the exercise and training for a couple of 10ks with an injury which I was trying my best to ignore (the rest is history), all the logging, blogging and keeping the family happy.   Previously I'd have signed up a week or two after it was announced entries were open (for both Janathon and Juneathon) and I'd have a plan ready to go, all set out on an excel spreadsheet and pinned to the fridge so the other two knew exactly what was about to happen.

This time I'm being a bit more relaxed about it.   All I'm going to do is keep up with my Vivofit step challenge (as I write I'm supposed to do 11,303 steps today and this will rise each day) and try to get my sedentary level down a bit, fit in some cycling (either turbo or on the road) - anything else exercise wise will be a bonus.  Oh and of course - some lovely summery dog walks with my little furry friend Archie.

Good luck fellow 'athoners.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

South Downs Spring Sportive May 2014

As many will know I started riding a road bike at the beginning of the year and I've been building up distance steadily, getting grips with going downhill without crying, uphill without having to walk and generally go a bit faster.  With the sudden death of my lovely friend Sam in January I wanted to raise funds for charity by doing a cycling sportive.  All the local ones are quite hilly but hubby thought the Cycling Weekly South Downs Spring Sportive would be a suitable one to enter - hilly but not too difficult.

As is customary in the run up to an event I had a rubbish ride during the week, I dropped my chain a couple of times, couldn't get up my nemesis hill and felt generally rubbish but knowing these things happen in running too I tried not to panic (and headed to Twitter for some reassurance).

I started getting ready for the event on Friday - piling up bottles, food, gels, cycling computers and kit.   On Saturday night Shaun came home from work and loaded up the car.   Sunday morning came very quickly - we left just after 7am as the weather forecast was hot and sunny so we needed to start early, although our official start time wasn't until 8.30 for the 34 mile ride.

Cycling registration is completely different to anything I've ever experienced at running events.   I think I've mentioned in past posts about hubby's cycling events - there doesn't seem to be the panic amongst cyclists that there is in starting pens at running events.
Arriving for registration

Having collected our timing chips (stuck to our cycling helmets), bike number, free tea token and free bottle of SIS Go or Rego token we went back to the car to set the bikes up.   At just before 8.30 we made our way to the start line where my friend Nik was waiting to see us off.

Nervous face
Cyclists are let out on the road in small groups having been given a safety talk by the start team.   Leaving Plumpton racecourse was horrible - the first hill came quite quickly, before my legs and lungs had really worked out what was going on and before I knew it I was off the bike and walking up - not the best start but things did improve.

The rest of the ride went well, some of the hills were a bit difficult but with "Coach Shaun" behind me shouting encouragement and technical instruction I managed to do all but two (I'll come on to the second one in a bit!)   One hill worked really well - a lovely sweeping descent that I managed to get a good speed on without touching my brakes and then all the way up the uphill to the top without dropping a gear!   I managed to scare the living daylights out of a cyclist who came alongside just at the wrong moment when I let out a really loud "wahooooo" screamy shout.  Poor bloke!   Hard to believe that 4 months ago I couldn't go downhill without crapping myself and yanking on my brakes so hard I almost came to a grinding halt.

All was going well and just after the split from the Epic and Standard course we found the feed station.  Anyone who's ever done a sportive or organised cycling event will know feed stations are something to behold.  I wish I'd taken a photo of it now - I've never seen so many jaffa cakes, fig rolls, jelly babies, flapjacks, bananas!   There's also the chance to refill bottles with water and sports drink (in this case SIS) and take a gel, and use a proper loo!   Unfortunately just after the feed station was a horrible hill, once again legs had forgotten what to do and the fig roll I'd wolfed down hadn't quite been digested.  Second walk time!    Once we got to the top that hill everything fell back into place again and we were off to do the last 13 and a bit miles (not sure why I had to break it down into Parkruns and running distances in my head - guess old habits die hard).

I wasn't really keeping an eye on the time it was taking us until my Garmin hit the 30 mile mark and we'd not been going 3 hours (my average speed is normally about 10mph).   A little effort and before we knew it we were making our way up to the finish line.

2 hours and 59 minutes after we'd left we crossed the line.   Have a look at the video - guess you'll work out how happy I was!  Having collected my medal, event Tshirt, magazine and free recovery shake we headed for a sit down and chat with Nik and her hubby and Twitter friend Nick (@thebandit007) who had also done the short distance in under 2 hours!

I am so pleased with how it went and I really can't wait to do another one - a nice flat one would be lovely!  

Thanks to Cycling Weekly for such a brilliantly organised event, Shaun for putting up with me and being a brilliant coach and sacrificing his Gold award, Nik and Conrad for being at the start and the finish and Nick for waiting around to see us back in!!   To all my lovely Twitter followers, family and friends for your words of encouragement  and support - thank you xxxxx

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Embracing the Pink - Giro d'Italia 2014

To celebrate Shaun's birthday we went to Belfast to watch the start of the Giro d'Italia.   A chance to have a long weekend away and enjoy some cycling.  I'll try not to make this account to long or like a photo album, we took a lot of photos that weekend so I've selected some favourites.

A couple of weeks previously I spent 4 hours waiting in a virtual queue to get tickets to the Team Presentation on the Thursday evening, we later found out that the wristbands had to be collected by 4pm on the day - our flight arrived at 3pm and we had to get from Belfast City Airport in time to pick them up!   Step forward my lovely Twitter follower @gingeref (Craig) who lives just outside Belfast and offered to pick up the wristbands during the preceding week and drop them off at our hotel - Madison's!   Sorted.

When we arrived at City Airport it soon became obvious that the people of Belfast were really supportive of the Giro starting in their city - just about everything was painted pink, wrapped in pink, posters everywhere and people walking around dressed in pink.  

Our welcome was made complete when we arrived at the hotel and we were handed our pink wristbands to attend the evenings presentation at City Hall.

We found a good spot quite a way from the stage - being a short arse I need to be able to see over everyone else so there's no point in standing too close or in the masses.  First spot of the evening was a cycling hero - Stephen Roche, didn't manage to get a photo with him but did get his autograph on my pink Giro baseball cap!
Queue selfie!

Our first viewing spot (not brilliant)
Cycling hero - Stephen Roche
 Once the cyclists started to move up to the stage it was obvious that we weren't in a very good spot - Shaun went off to find somewhere better - leaving me in position just in case.  Within a couple of minutes he came back and dragged me round the corner where we had a much better view - the riders leaving City Hall for their walk to the stage!

Nicholas Roche (son of hero Stephen)

Dan Martin (another "local")

One of the race favourites - Cadel Evans

Another race favourite - Nairo Quintana
 Eeeek - yes that close!

On the Friday morning the cyclists were out on practice rides for the Team Time Trial taking place that evening.   A great opportunity for photos of the cyclists in action but going slow enough that they weren't a blur.  We did see all the teams go out and return more than once.  Also a great chance to walk down through the race village picking up freebies and rubbing shoulders with the cyclists when they returned to their team coaches.

 I also got a bit excited to bump into one of my favourite cycling commentators Matt Stephens !

In true LilB tradition it was time to meet up with  Twitter friend and fellow cycling enthusiast, Nic and his wife Kate.   Having eventually caught up with them between a couple of team buses we headed out to get some lunch.   Nic suggested visiting a "cycling bistro" called Coppi named after a great Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi.  Whilst the food was great and a lovely bustling atmosphere we were disappointed that there wasn't any cycling memorabilia just a large picture of the man himself, and a van.

We said goodbye to Nic & Kate and headed out to the Ormeau Bridge where we'd decided to watch the evenings Team Time Trial.  We reached the bridge a bit early so decided to walk back down the road to a local pub to have a drink.   The locals were really getting into the spirit of things - some were dressed in pink, some wore pink wigs but all were having a great time - even though they had absolutely no idea what was about to happen or why!   We obviously stuck out like a sore thumb, it being a locals pub!   We soon got talking to everyone explaining why we were there and all about our interest in cycling, which of course led to explaining to them what they were about to experience.  Armed with noisy pink "clappers" we all stood on the roadside cheering and whooping each time as they cycled past.    I'm so glad we decided to stop at the Rose & Crown (or Rosie as we were told to call it) we made some great friends that evening.  
The locals at the Rosie

Making new friends

The lovely Craig
I even got to meet up with the aforementioned Twitter friend Craig who made the journey to the pub especially to meet us.

As soon as the last team passed us we went inside and watched the finish on the TV and enjoyed some traditional entertainment.

Having said goodbye to our new found Irish friends we walked back to the city centre with Craig for something to eat.   It was great to have some time to chat about cycling, running, Ireland and life in general.

Saturday morning saw the roll out for stage 2 - starting in the Titanic Quarter, travelling around the north coast and then finishing in the City Centre.   We decided to head to the Titanic Quarter and watch the start, a very relaxed affair for the cyclists preparing to leave, if a little wet.   Another great photo opportunity and a chance to walk around the team buses once again.  

 Two of my favourite riders - Joaquim 'Purito' Rodriguez and below Bernie Eisel

Once they'd left we went to the Titanic Experience - a massive building documenting the rise of shipbuilding in Belfast, the building of the Titanic and the Olympic and then stories of survivors from the sinking and the exploration of the seabed to find the wreck.   It was an amazing experience and well worth the 2-3 hours it took to walk round - at least we were in the dry!

After lunch in one of the worst coffee houses we've ever experienced (even though we were warned by Nic and Kate not to go there and then totally forgetting) we walked to the finish line and found Nic, who had a great position at just after the 100m to go point.  The City Centre was packed, everyone trying to get a good view of the finishing straight.  The atmosphere was amazing. At 4pm the riders arrived in a sprint finish.
Yep THAT fast!
As soon as the race was finished we headed out to see if we could find somewhere to watch the presentation - we found a great spot at the back of the stage and watched the winners and leaders collect their jerseys.

That was the end of our cycling weekend - we left on the Sunday afternoon, having taken in St George's covered market and a bus tour of the City to see some of the famous sights including the Shankill Road, Falls Road, the Peace Wall, Crumlin Gaol and a lot of murals.

All in all a fantastic weekend - the people of Belfast should be very proud of the welcome visitors received and the support for the race itself was overwhelming.  Nothing was too much trouble from the welcome at the airport, the taxi drivers, the hotel staff, and our friends at the Rosie who even supplied a cup of tea when I got cold standing on the side of the road! Shame the weather was slightly rubbish but it didn't stop us from getting out and about.  We'll certainly go back to Ireland in the future to do the proper tourist bit - I really want to see the Giants Causeway and spend more time taking in sites like the Crumlin Gaol.  

Worried about going to Belfast?   Don't be - you'll be pleasantly surprised.  There are some lovely places to eat (just avoid Campbells "The Oldest Coffee House in Belfast"), the people are extremely friendly and you certainly won't run out of things to do even if there isn't a Grand Tour cycle race being held!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Garmin Vivofit

In my last post I briefly touched on the birthday present from my lovely hubby - a Garmin Vivofit.   I hadn't really had much chance to get used to it at that point and to be honest I think it may be a while before I'm using all the functions correctly, apart from of course the step count which is the easiest thing to get the hang of!   In fact I think I may be a little obsessed, especially at the weekends when I'm finding it harder to get to target!

The watch itself comes in a box with two straps, one large and one small.   I did try it with the large band but seemed to have a lot of strap left over so swapped the "unit" over to the small band.   Also in the box is a teeny weeny ANT+ which links the Vivofit to the computer/laptop/smartphone etc - I'm so scared of losing that little blighter that we have designated it to a special keepsake box - you know the one with hairgrips, hair elastics, odd bits of thread and the watch you keep meaning to take to the jewellers to get a new battery put in - or maybe that's just me!

Setting it up is pretty easy, there's a micro set up instruction on the box - plug in the ANT, press the button on the Vivofit til it says PAIR then away you go.   In fact, it's all so quick I've forgotten exactly what to do.   You do need to set up a Garmin Connect account (which I already had) so that you can view your stats and connect with friends and take part in "Community Challenges".

I have no idea how the step count works - we've tried jumping up and down and swinging my arm but that doesn't seem to work, and it doesn't work when I'm cycling either so it must be something to do with heart rate.   I have found a way of cheating the steps slightly.   Once you've been sat down for an hour a red line appears at the top of the screen, which is added to by a block of red every 15 mins.   To get rid of the red line you have to move.   The dog is quite enjoying this fact over the weekends - he's getting about 5 walks a day at the moment.  The other way of removing the line is to do running on spot or side steps - which comes in quite handy when you're doing the washing up or the ironing!

The sleep function is most fascinating.  The report you get from the previous night's sleep pattern is great - my graph is a bit up and down with the occasional "flat line".   How I manage on average to do 30 odd steps in my sleep is beyond me!

Here's my Garmin page

I've now worked out how to record the heart rate monitor information too!  The only thing which is frustrating me at the moment is downloading my cycle rides from my Garmin Forerunner and then downloading the Vivofit later before I go to bed - the laptop freezes and a shut down and restart is the only way to do both!   It stores the information too - so far I've not downloaded for 4 days and it's managed to keep the information.  I think you can leave it for about 7 days before downloading!

All in all I love this little gadget, it's making me move more and now I need to find a way of it not telling me I'm more than 50% sedentary!